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Some Riparia martins from Taiwan (September 2018)

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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 08:03   #1
SteveMM
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Some Riparia martins from Taiwan (September 2018)

These are from Tainan City, SW Taiwan at around this time last year (the first two weeks of September). Would anyone care to have a go at them? I'd also be interested to know what age people thought these birds were.

Thanks,

Steve
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 12:00   #2
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Are you asking whether these are Sand Martin (which would be normal there) or Pale Martin (which would be 'accidental')? What reason do you have for thinking they are not Sand Martin?
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 12:04   #3
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Are you asking whether these are Sand Martin (which would be normal there) or Pale Martin (which would be 'accidental')? What reason do you have for thinking they are not Sand Martin?
From the absence of wear to the outer primaries, I think these birds are juveniles. This seems to put them in a very advanced state of moult for Sand Martin.
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 12:16   #4
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From the absence of wear to the outer primaries, I think these birds are juveniles. This seems to put them in a very advanced state of moult for Sand Martin.
OK. That is well beyond my ability and pay grade. We get a few Sand Martins passing through where I am in central Japan. Usually it's end of March and the return in mid-September. But here, it's literally a few birds and a couple of days (so most years, I don't see them because I'm not there every day, but I assume that they are regular). If I saw these, I would just tick Sand Martin.

I apologize for have replied without having anything to offer in terms of ID. Looking at Mark Brazil's book, I can't see how you could be sure of a Pale Martin ID anywhere that both might be seen.
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 12:28   #5
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OK. That is well beyond my ability and pay grade. We get a few Sand Martins passing through where I am in central Japan. Usually it's end of March and the return in mid-September. But here, it's literally a few birds and a couple of days (so most years, I don't see them because I'm not there every day, but I assume that they are regular). If I saw these, I would just tick Sand Martin.

I apologize for have replied without having anything to offer in terms of ID. Looking at Mark Brazil's book, I can't see how you could be sure of a Pale Martin ID anywhere that both might be seen.
Well, you've certainly contributed something useful there anyway, Mac, as I thought ijimae didn't arrive in Japan until May. Given that some arrive so early, are they known to double brood in Japan?
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 12:51   #6
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Well, you've certainly contributed something useful there anyway, Mac, as I thought ijimae didn't arrive in Japan until May. Given that some arrive so early, are they known to double brood in Japan?
I honestly don't know. I have photos of them (I think) on 30th March here in Nara and going back on 19th September. I am never here at the end of April or first week of May (Golden Week holiday; we are abroad), so I don't know if there are more around then. I don't know anything about their breeding patterns. Brazil says they breed in Hokkaido, but I thought I had seen them in the high mountains of Nagano in central Honshu in late June.

As they are just an occasional passage bird, I worry that I may have misidentifiied something. So, I am attaching a photo of what I think is a Sand Martin from my local patch taken on 30th March. It's self-identified (i.e. I thought it couldn't be anything else, so I didn't confirm with anyone).
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 13:01   #7
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I honestly don't know. I have photos of them (I think) on 30th March here in Nara and going back on 19th September. I am never here at the end of April or first week of May (Golden Week holiday; we are abroad), so I don't know if there are more around then. I don't know anything about their breeding patterns. Brazil says they breed in Hokkaido, but I thought I had seen them in the high mountains of Nagano in central Honshu in late June.

As they are just an occasional passage bird, I worry that I may have misidentifiied something. So, I am attaching a photo of what I think is a Sand Martin from my local patch taken on 30th March. It's self-identified (i.e. I thought it couldn't be anything else, so I didn't confirm with anyone).
I think that's probably an Asian House Martin you have there. The breast band looks too diffuse for Sand Martin, lacks any 'T-bar', and the underwing coverts seem blackish rather than brownish. Did you see the rump at all?
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 13:15   #8
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To try and add more context, the swallows I keep an eye on here are all currently in primary moult: Adult Grey-throated Sand Martins have recently finished; juvs are somewhere past mid-primaries. Adult Pacific Swallows are almost finished; juvs are somewhere mid-primaries. Adult Striated Swallows are just past mid-primaries; most juvs have started but some have yet to start. This is my 'southern set'. The Riparia I posted (if juvenile) seem to conform to this 'southern set'.

I would have thought migrants from any 'northern set' would moult later and that juveniles would retain juvenile plumage until quite late in the autumn.
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 13:30   #9
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I think that's probably an Asian House Martin you have there. The breast band looks too diffuse for Sand Martin, lacks any 'T-bar', and the underwing coverts seem blackish rather than brownish. Did you see the rump at all?
Well, I suppose it could be. The breast band looked clear enough to me, and I wouldn't expect a House Martin to show a band like this, but I didn't see the rump, or any suggestion of a white rump. I have never seen a bird I thought was Asian House Martin in my area (although Mark Brazil shows them nearby, I've never heard any of my birding friends mentioning them or posting them on their blogs).

In Hokkaido, where I have seen Asian House Martins, I also haven't noticed a breast band, however pale.

[I'm off to bed now, so there won't be any replies from me for quite a while]
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Old Tuesday 3rd September 2019, 15:43   #10
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With these pale fringes to tertials and mantle feathers they clearly are first year birds indeed. A few information about Sand Martin aging in Europe can be found here:
http://blascozumeta.com/wp-content/u...n-rriparia.pdf

I've no idea whether they could be Pale Sand Martins though...
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Old Wednesday 4th September 2019, 01:14   #11
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With these pale fringes to tertials and mantle feathers they clearly are first year birds indeed. A few information about Sand Martin aging in Europe can be found here:
http://blascozumeta.com/wp-content/u...n-rriparia.pdf

I've no idea whether they could be Pale Sand Martins though...
Cheers, Roland.

I'm quite certain that these birds are juveniles in post-juvenile moult. Compare the condition of the outer primaries of adult Grey-throated Sand Martin (Jun), Pacific Swallow (Aug) and Striated Swallow (Aug) at similar times of year. Unless these Riparia have exceptionally tough flight feathers compared to other swallows, they must be juveniles due to the absence of wear.

So, what about the first bird in #1? With five replaced primaries and a sixth growing, can this possibly have hatched at a northern latitude?

It's also interesting to look at the Pale Martins in the link below from Lake Baikal. Only one adult out of the four there has started the post-breeding moult (by mid-August), whilst the juveniles shown there are all fresh. These presumably nominate diluta breed far to the north of Chinese fohkienensis, which can presumably breed (and finish breeding and start moulting) earlier.

https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=330288

AFAIK, Sand Martin and fohkienensis Pale Martin are morphologically indistinguishable. Descriptions of Pale Martin highlighting morphological differences relate to other, more clearly differentiated races. Hence the tentative fishing around with a timing of moult approach!
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Old Wednesday 4th September 2019, 16:31   #12
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Interesting pics also in the old BF thread you linked. As I said I agree with 1cy (Sand?) Martins - all of them. I think you're right to believe that the outer primaries should be distinctly more worn in adults. So, they must be of an early brood not from the North. Still, I find it astonishing how pale the fringes of the tertials are. Maybe a feature of the local race or already newly grown adult type feathers?
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Old Wednesday 4th September 2019, 23:19   #13
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Interesting pics also in the old BF thread you linked. As I said I agree with 1cy (Sand?) Martins - all of them. I think you're right to believe that the outer primaries should be distinctly more worn in adults. So, they must be of an early brood not from the North. Still, I find it astonishing how pale the fringes of the tertials are. Maybe a feature of the local race or already newly grown adult type feathers?
Thanks for the contribution, Roland. It's helpful.

I think that in the first bird in #1 all the tertials have already been replaced and are adult. In the second bird, the shortest tertial looks browner and is probably still juvenile. The first bird in #1, then, will have finished a complete post-juvenile moult by October of its first year, which I find quite astonishing for a northern migrant!

I've read somewhere that Sand Martins in the UK double brood, and that juveniles from the first brood migrate as early as mid/late July. So, there is a wave of migration composed entirely of juveniles in mid/late summer in Europe. If such a pattern were repeated here, that might explain the sudden and unexpected arrival of exclusively juvenile birds in late August/September.

However, according to HBW, Sand Martins in the Far East typically only have a single brood. I suspected this might be the case as Sand Martins here migrate much later than they do in Europe. There is northbound migration through outlying islands (Kinmen/Matzu) in late April/May (with the bulk of the birds in May) of birds which must be northern ijimae as fohkienensis Pale Martin is already on its breeding grounds. So, as Sand Martins here migrate later, I guess they breed (and fledge and moult and disperse) later than do European birds, making an early 'wave' of first brood juveniles less likely in this region (though Mac's comments in #4 suggest there are early arrivals).

As the timing of post-juvenile moult is in keeping with the 'southern set' of resident swallows that breed here (which will complete post-juvenile moult by October), I've fancied that these birds too might belong to this set. If so, that would make them fohkienensis Pale Martins from just across the water in Fujian. Perhaps there is some post-fledging dispersal of this form?

So, you see where I am with these! If I could establish the rule that juvenile ijimae retained juvenile plumage until October/November (after its migration), then these birds could safely be identified as Pale Martin by timing of moult. However, this 'first wave, second wave' business poses real problems for this assumption! Given that, is anyone able to answer my question in #5?
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Old Thursday 5th September 2019, 07:47   #14
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Maybe a feature of the local race or already newly grown adult type feathers?
And just to clarify (if needed), there is no local race of Sand Martin here. The nearest breeding populations of Sand Martin are in Manchuria, approx. 2500 km to the north. Pale Martin, on the other hand, breeds just 250 km away across the Taiwan Strait. There are currently no accepted records of Pale Martin in Taiwan.

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Old Friday 6th September 2019, 12:44   #15
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Apologies for bumping into your thread again.

The bird I posted earlier was in my first couple of years birding (anywhere, not just Japan) and I simply trusted books, so if it had what looked like a breastband, then it was a Sand Martin. But I am happy to agree that this bird is an Asian House Martin, especially as this will allow me to add a tick to my local patch, since I have never seen one here since (or indeed anywhere in my local area).

Here is a bird from September a few years later, taken from the exact same spot (to within a few metres) of the bird I posted earlier (both this bird and the earlier bird were in a mixed bunch of Barn Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows). I attach an upper view and an view from below. I think this has to be Sand Martin (brown colour, no white rump), doesn't it?

Thanks.
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Old Friday 6th September 2019, 15:51   #16
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Apologies for bumping into your thread again.

The bird I posted earlier was in my first couple of years birding (anywhere, not just Japan) and I simply trusted books, so if it had what looked like a breastband, then it was a Sand Martin. But I am happy to agree that this bird is an Asian House Martin, especially as this will allow me to add a tick to my local patch, since I have never seen one here since (or indeed anywhere in my local area).

Here is a bird from September a few years later, taken from the exact same spot (to within a few metres) of the bird I posted earlier (both this bird and the earlier bird were in a mixed bunch of Barn Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows). I attach an upper view and an view from below. I think this has to be Sand Martin (brown colour, no white rump), doesn't it?

Thanks.
Hi Mac,

Yes, that's a Sand Martin, a moulting adult by the looks of it. The breast band is sharply defined and brown rather than diffuse and greyish. Asian House Martins (at least the ones here) are typically sullied pinkish-grey on the upper breast and this often gives the impression of a breast band. Here, they are resident in high mountains, but other (northern) populations are migratory.

Steve
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Old Friday 6th September 2019, 23:13   #17
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Thank you.
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 03:35   #18
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And is this bird I saw this morning also a Sand Martin?

In principle, the bird in 1&2 is the same bird in 3&4, as I was doing my best to track it, but the photos are twelve seconds apart, so it could in theory be a different bird.

By the way, I think you worked it out, but just to be clear, given that the first bird I posted was an Asian House Martin, then I haven't seen Sand Martin in late March.

The bird I posted earlier which was a Sand Martin was taken in mid-September.

Thanks again.
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 10:28   #19
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And is this bird I saw this morning also a Sand Martin?
Hi Mac,

Yes, that's a Sand Martin, too. As they don't breed near where you are, presumably some southbound migration there now.

Steve

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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 23:06   #20
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Thank you Steve,

We have huge numbers of breeding Barn Swallows, and in August the flocks flying to roost over the Old Palace Site in the centre of the city attracts a lot of visitors (and Goshawks). In spring and late-August to mid-September we get quite a few Red-rumped Swallows feeding up before departure. The nearest place I know that they breed is under a bridge about 20km away. This year they seem to have done well, as the numbers here in the city have been larger than usual.

Because of this thread, I went out yesterday to see if there was anything else mixed in with the two swallows, and this one bird stood out, and luckily I was able to get a few photos. So, it looks like it must be annual in small numbers here. The swallows can be seen resting on wires, but I've never come across the martin resting, as in your lovely photos.

Thanks again; I've learned something, and got a bit more confident about what to look for.
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 12:55   #21
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Thank you Steve,

We have huge numbers of breeding Barn Swallows, and in August the flocks flying to roost over the Old Palace Site in the centre of the city attracts a lot of visitors (and Goshawks). In spring and late-August to mid-September we get quite a few Red-rumped Swallows feeding up before departure. The nearest place I know that they breed is under a bridge about 20km away. This year they seem to have done well, as the numbers here in the city have been larger than usual.

Because of this thread, I went out yesterday to see if there was anything else mixed in with the two swallows, and this one bird stood out, and luckily I was able to get a few photos. So, it looks like it must be annual in small numbers here. The swallows can be seen resting on wires, but I've never come across the martin resting, as in your lovely photos.

Thanks again; I've learned something, and got a bit more confident about what to look for.

Cheers, Mac.

Most of the swallows here (migrant or otherwise) prefer to sit on overhead wires, too, where they are never at the best of angles for photography.

Fortunately, the Riparia martins have a peculiar fondness of these hoops that the farmers put up towards the end of summer. Once the wet season has passed, they (the farmers) will drag polythene sheets over these to protect whatever crop they have growing below (watermelons, I think), meaning that overnight all the perches will have gone. This leaves only a very short window of opportunity to get close to these birds at a nice, waist-high level. Fortunately, that 'window' coincides with the arrival of Pale/Sand/'Whatever-they-are' Martins into the area.

Once the area has dried out completely (early October), all the Grey-throated Sand Martins (all 5-10,000 of them) will disperse, taking whatever other hirundines were in amongst them with them elsewhere.

Steve
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 02:34   #22
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Most of the swallows here (migrant or otherwise) prefer to sit on overhead wires, too, where they are never at the best of angles for photography.
Sometimes I wonder how certain species of birds survived before electricity and telephones were invented.

Eurasian Tree Sparrows nest inside the horizontal aluminium bars on these electricity poles in our city (not just a few birds, but loads and loads).
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 05:00   #23
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Sometimes I wonder how certain species of birds survived before electricity and telephones were invented.

Eurasian Tree Sparrows nest inside the horizontal aluminium bars on these electricity poles in our city (not just a few birds, but loads and loads).
They certainly are of benefit to some birds. Eurasian Tree Sparrows make use of them here, too, as do heaps of Javan Mynas and Chestnut-tailed Starlings. Without telegraph poles, I don't think these latter two invasive species would have been able to spread to quite the extent that they have done!

Perhaps to close this thread (and to put it back on topic), here's another very advanced Riparia SP I photographed on Sunday. I'm having great difficulty believing that those outermost primaries could be one year old!
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 06:44   #24
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This has been an interesting thread so far.

The Riparia martins in Hong Kong have a complicated history - initially thought to all be Sand Martins, they were then reassessed and thought to be Pale Martins, but birds trapped in recent years have all turned out to be Sand on DNA analysis. At the moment we only know that Sand definitely occurs, but there is no clear reason why fokiensis wouldn't occur here as well.

Checking the trapping records, we have trapped first year birds in suspended moult (inner primaries replaced, outers retained) in October/November, and birds in active wing moult in April. I'm not sure whether any of these were confirmed for species from DNA analysis.
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 06:48   #25
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Once the area has dried out completely (early October), all the Grey-throated Sand Martins (all 5-10,000 of them) will disperse, taking whatever other hirundines were in amongst them with them elsewhere.
It's interesting that you get movements of Grey-throated Martins. Do you know where they go? They are extremely rare here - only two records, one of which was in early October, which fits well with your observations.

Maybe knowing about the movements of Grey-throated could reveal more about fokiensis Pale Martins. If Grey-throated don't move much, perhaps the same is true of fokiensis, which may explain why they are rarely seen far from the breeding areas.
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